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Creative Play Center
1151 Portland Ave, Albany, CA 94706

The Creative Play Center is the kind of place that makes adults want to go back to pre-school, only your pre-schoolMore probably wasn't as cool as this one. Run out of a north Albany home, the center appears to be stocked with every kind of fun diversion you can imagine, including a sand pit, trampoline, toys galore, jungle gym with slide and a bubble tub.

The center, which was founded in San Francisco in 1973, moved to Berkeley in 1976, and has been in its current location since 1980. Its aim is to "create the conditions under which learning takes place," and is run by Shelley Cadman (who lives upstairs from the center).

The center has small class sizes and emphasizes creativity. Teachers help children with problem-solving techniques and focus on social and communication skills. Each month, kids focus on a different theme, such as castles, farms and transportation. Themes inspire a number of activities, from field trips and cooking to music. Children also take gymnastics classes at Head over Hills.

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